The 85th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2016)

The effect of dental impairment on food digestion in wild ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta) using fecal nutritional content


1Department of Anthropology, University of Colorado Boulder, 2Department of Anthropology, University of North Dakota

April 16, 2016 , Atrium Ballroom A/B Add to calendar

Ring-tailed lemurs of the Bezà Mahafaly Special Reserve exhibit extensive tooth wear and loss related to fallback consumption of Tamarindus indica fruit. Such impairment may limit capacity to masticate and digest foods, resulting in greater residual fecal nutritional content. Neutral (NDF) and acid detergent (ADF) fiber, acid detergent lignin (ADL), nitrogen (e.g., protein), and ash content were determined for 154 samples from the dry (June-July) and wet (January) seasons for 14 Lemur catta (10♀/ 4♂) of known tooth wear and loss status. Relationships between tooth loss and fecal content were assessed using Wilcoxon’s tests, while the impacts of wear were examined using Spearman’s correlations. Overall, tooth loss was associated with, and wear correlated with, reduced ADL but increased protein and ash. During the dry season, tooth loss was associated with reduced NDF, ADF and ADL but greater ash and protein, while wear correlated negatively with NDF and ADL, but positively with protein and ash. Wet season NDF, ADF and ash were greater among individuals with tooth loss; for wear only a trend (p = 0.061) towards a positive correlation with ash was observed. Higher ratios of hemicellulose and cellulose to ADL were associated with tooth loss and correlated positively with wear, overall and for the dry season. During the wet season, cellulose to ADL correlated positively with wear. Our data indicate dental impairment may reduce fermentation of structural carbohydrates and digestion of protein-rich resources (e.g., leaves). Associations of ash with impairment suggest silicates contribute to tooth wear among Bezà lemurs.

Funding for this project was provided by the National Science Foundation (DDRIG #1231208), the L.S.B. Leakey Foundation, the Scott Ferris Graduate Awards and the University of Colorado Department of Anthropology.